Ford is planning to take its self-driving car technology onto European roads next year as part of its ambitious plan to launch a fully autonomous car for ride-hailing services by 2021.
Trials will start at its Engineering Center in Essex, U.K., followed by additional testing at its Research & Advanced Engineering facilities in both Aachen and Cologne in Germany, the car giant told TechCrunch this week.
Ford said the teams at the testing locations are already up to speed with the company’s autonomous driving technology, which made choosing the new sites easy.
Commenting on the announcement, Ford’s Thomas Lukaszewicz said the broad range of traffic conditions in countries across the pond will help the company to hone its technology.
“It’s important that we extend our testing to Europe,”Lukaszewicz said. “Rules of the road vary from country to country here; traffic signs and road layouts are different, and drivers are likely to share congested roads with cyclists.”
The American automaker is already testing its autonomous technology in the U.S. with the aim of launching a self-driving car for ride-hailing services five years from now. The company hopes the Europe-based testing will help pave the way for similar services on the continent soon after.
The grand plan is to mass produce an SAE Level 4 self-driving vehicle within five years. For those unfamiliar with SAE levels, “0” is for a car with no automation at all while “5” is fully automated. So Ford’s car will be pretty much completely autonomous, though driver intervention may be required in particularly adverse weather conditions or unusual environments.
For its on-road tests the company has been using Ford Fusion Hybrid cars kitted out with a slew of sensors and cameras. The vehicle looks pretty much like any other Fusion Hybrid but for the spinning lidar units on its roof.
DT’s Stephen Edelstein recently experienced a ride in Ford’s autonomous prototype – find out what he made of it here.